Ongoing decline in vacancy rates at South East retail and leisure parks

Expanding retailers have had to rely on a ‘second-hand’ supply of units on retail and leisure parks across the UK because of the low levels of new development, according to research by Trevor Wood Associates in “The Definitive Guide to Retail & Leisure Parks 2016”.

The latest edition of the annual state of the market report revealed that, in the South East, just 4.4 per cent of retail warehousing space was vacant at the end of 2015. The figure is the result of an ongoing downward trend every six months since the second half of 2012, and is a long way from the heights of 9.8 per cent seen in 2009. The most recent level puts the area in ninth position out of 11 UK regions.

The national and regional research findings were unveiled to local property experts at a recent presentation hosted by GL Hearn in Southampton Trevor Wood, senior partner of Trevor Wood Associates, said: “We studied over 1,500 retail and leisure parks and major retail warehouse developments across the UK, with detailed historic information for every one of the 15,600 retail warehouse units in the country. In the South East, we looked at every site including 247 retail parks. Since last year’s review, a small number of new sites have joined the future development pipeline such as Hallsville Quarter in London, The Old Dairy in Ruislip and Acorn Retail Park in Crawley, which could ease the demand for available space.”

Nationally, much of the vacant space became available due to disposals, relocations and downsizing by established companies such as B & Q, Homebase and PC World. Also administrations and Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) with financially struggling tenants freed up units allowing others to expand, although the failure rate reduced during 2015 and the first two months of 2016, lessening this source of available space.

Each year, national rankings compiled by Trevor Wood Associates are treated as league tables for the sector and studied closely by the property industry. They highlight the relative size of schemes allowing easy comparisons to be made. The South East is well represented throughout the lists.

Over half the UK’s top 10 Leisure Schemes are in the South East, topped by The O2 Entertainment District in Greenwich, London at number one. Elsewhere, Westwood Cross in Broadstairs is listed at number 4; Swan Centre in Eastleigh is 5; Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth is 6; Brighton Marina in Brighton is 7; and Xscape in Milton Keynes is 8.

In the top Retail Warehouse Clusters ranking, Westwood Road in Broadstairs headed the list at number one. Lakeside on Thurrock, Essex is 3, and West Quay in Southampton is 7.

The Brewery in Romford was ranked number two in the country’s top Retail & Leisure Parks list with Leyton Mills Retail Park in London in eighth position. Additionally, The Brewery in Romford is sixth in the top Retail Parks list, and Two Rivers in Staines is eighth in the top Shopping Parks league.

Despite some reduction in space, the report highlighted the strong position of DIY warehouse B & Q. Not only is it the largest tenant on retail parks in the South East, but also it remains the undoubted leader nationally, retaining its top position for the 10th consecutive year.

Trevor Wood added: “Vacancy rates in the South East are lower than previous years. However, the number of Retail & Leisure Parks in the various top 10 rankings show the wide choice and top quality attractions available. The development pipeline shows the pressure on new space is being addressed.”